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Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
The Light in the Trees is a coming of age novel for young adults and preteens written by Jeff Van Valer. When he was 10 years old, Ted wasn’t at all sure about spending that first summer at White Birch Camp. His dad and mom knew it, but together they were able to get him to give camp a try. All he had to do, his dad told him, was to sit out on the bench they were sitting on now and watch the way the leaves on the trees on the other side of the lake fluttered in the wind. His dad said to pretend those leaves were his mom and dad waving and talking to him. Ted said he’d try, and, yes, he did love camp that summer -- and the next. But his third summer was different. Ted was 12 years old, and his life had changed in the most awful of ways. His mom had died the previous October. Ted didn’t know why he was even going to camp that summer at all, and a small part of him wondered if his dad wasn’t just trying to get rid of him for a few months. Maybe his dad would enjoy his freedom so much that he wouldn’t even want to pick him up at summer’s end.
Jeff Van Valer’s coming of age novel for young adults and preteens, The Light in the Trees, is dedicated to anyone who remembers going away to camp, but I think that those of us who never did get the camp experience may have even more wistful moments of “if only” after reading this inspired book. I loved getting to live the camp experience vicariously through Ted’s third summer at White Birch. Watching him learn to deal with his cabin mates and seeing them form loyalties and gain a sense of team camaraderie was inspiring. Each of these young campers is poised on the brink of adulthood, yet still childish enough to love the swims and other camp activities, and to relish the thought of a giant sloth monster. The character studies of the campers, Mr. Dinwiddie and Isaac are marvelous, and White Birch Camp was magically transformed, by book’s end, into a real place in my mind, scarred by the fires, but still very much a place where summers become endless and friends become family. I love coming of age stories and have read quite a few of them. The Light in the Trees is one of the special ones, the rare story that stays shimmering and bright in your mind days after you finish reading it. It’s most highly recommended.